Maybe one of the most important things to figure out for kids over 7-8 months old, regardless of who takes care of the child, is a #routine that works and that you can keep consistently every day, including weekends.
It may vary a little bit, but from what we've learned, the naps and meals should come pretty much all the same time and order every day.
I don't know how it would be for other children, but for our daughter, if we disturb her routine or is she doesn't have her needs met, the end result will be that she will not sleep well during the night, which means that we don't sleep and it quickly becomes a disaster.
Routine? What is a routine? #
Well, what I mean by #routine, in this context, is a series of activities that start and end at a specific time of the day and in a specific order.
Timing and order #
Both the timing and the order of the activities are important and should be kept the same, because then the child gets used to schedule, internalises the order of events and they are more comfortable and less stressed. They even start anticipating what comes next.
For example, our daughter starts laughing and waving goodbye to her mom when we finish breakfast, because she knows by now that our daily morning walk in the park is coming and mommy goes to work. Needless to say, this is not how it went the first few times we started doing this. 😅
Another example is getting her used to fall asleep with me in the afternoon. Initially, she would be more tense and fall asleep harder in my arms, but as time goes, she would get used to it and be more relaxed.
Consistency, consistency, consistency? #
Babies are humans also (shocking, right? 😄) and even with best routine and discipline some days might not work out as expected, and that is normal.
Some days (or nights) might go completely crazy in unexpected ways, regardless of how well we did. That doesn't mean the routine is bad, it might simply mean that the baby was stressed by something. It's good to understand why, but it's good to avoid sudden changes.
Like with any habit building process, it takes time to form a new habit, so we know we need to keep repeating it until it sticks!
How to come up with THE routine? #
I am no expert, but we got some advice from a pediatrician.
Together with her, we started building the routine by looking at the schedule of the parents and plan in the naps and night sleep. Those need to be at maximum 4 hours apart, when having 2 day naps (based on the recommendation from Huckleberry, but we confirmed it on our own when we had to extend the wake time and sometimes that didn't go well). Then we added the meals and snacks. Combined all this with breastfeeding times based on my wife's work schedule (currently from home) and to maximise her continuous blocks of work as well.
Food and sleep are the biggest elements of the routine and can be tricky to get them to be in harmony. But as with everything new and complex, it requires some trial-and-error to find the sweet spot.
Our routine #
In case you are wondering what is our routine, here it is:
- Wake up around 6-ish
- Breakfast at 7
- Leave for morning nap in the park at 8
- A snack around 10:30 or as soon as she wakes up
- Back home around 11
- Lunch around 12
- Afternoon nap around 14
- Snack around 15:30
- Play outside around 16:30
- Dinner around 18
- Night sleep around 19
Notice the 'around' word I used everywhere. The length of the naps affects the exact times. If she sleeps less in the morning, then we slide everything earlier slightly so she doesn't stay awake more than 4 hours. She might actually compensate in the afternoon nap, but it's not necessary. No day is exactly the same, but each day offers a new opportunity to run the routine as planned.
If there is a bigger gap in sleep (maybe she slept considerably less during the night) she might be more tired before the first nap, so she might even give signs she wants to sleep earlier than expected.
Also, if the routine had been mostly consistent across several days, she might develop a tendency to want to sleep at the times she is used to, even though there are fluctuations in the schedule on a specific day.
It sounds a bit complicated, because it is, so we try to simplify everything we notice we can or doesn't make a big difference.
For example, initially we would meet in the park with my wife after the morning nap to breastfeed, but we noticed that our daughter doesn't need or want the breast then, so we skipped it! More time for work for mom and a simpler routine to follow. 🎉